“...pursue the things that will empower you. Pursue knowledge. Be relentlessly curious…” – Chris Anderson
“…it’s becoming urgent for the world to start to see a compelling alternative vision.” Anderson told students. ” Probably it’s going to come down to re-imagining what a city can be, and making it so wonderful, that few people would want to live anywhere else. If there are to be 10 billion of us, we will have to, for the most part, live close to each other — if only to give the rest of nature a chance. Indeed more than half the world already lives in cities and the best of them offer so much to the world : richer culture, a greater sense of community, a far lower carbon footprint per person – and the collision of ideas that nurtures innovation. And the future cities you will help create need not feel claustrophobic or soulless. By sculpting beautiful new forms into the city’s structures and landscapes; by incorporating light, plants, trees, water; by imagining new ways to connect with each other and work with each other, you will allow the coming crowd to live more richly, more meaningfully, than has ever been possible in history – and to do so without sacrificing your grandchildren.
By imagining new ways to connect with each other and work with each other, we will allow the coming crowd to live more richly, more meaningfully, than has ever been possible...
Today in the St. Petersburg Times, Nathaniel French, a St. Pete native and 2011 graduate of Southern Methodist University, wrote in a guest column in the OpEd page:
“College students declaring their course of study must be aware of the financial benefits of each major. But they also should think about what they’d love to wake up and do every morning, how they can best contribute to society, and what it means to be truly fulfilled.”
What you’d love to wake up and do every morning, how to best contribute to society and be truly fulfilled – not an easy combo in today’s world, but not an impossible one either. At TEDxYouth@TampaBay we’re working to showcase people who know what they love and have found ways to do it for a living.
And sometimes it’s less a matter of finding meaningful work as finding meaning in the work you’re doing. In Meaningful Work: What Makes Work Meaningful? , psychologist Michael Steger relates the old story of three men laboring to break boulders with sledge hammers.
Steger sees meaningful work as made up of three parts:
- The work must make sense.
- The work must have achievable goals with apparent results.
- The work must serve the greater good in some way – making life better for co-workers or society.
In short, Malcolm Gladwell‘s contention that meaningful work occurs when effort is rewarded in some enduring way.
Steger cites growing evidence that workers who find meaning in their work are happier, more committed and often more productive workers. Curiosity, of course, is a vital component of the meaningful life. We have to want to know more about things, to be interested in learning more about the world around us, about what we’re doing and new and different ways to do it.
Alla Guelber has turned her quest for meaningful work into a thesis project called, reasonably enough, The Meaningful Work Project , in the service of her sought-after Master of Arts in Environmental Education and Communication at Royal Roads University
“The old paradigm is failing…,” she says. “Ecopreneurs. Social innovation. Green jobs. Systems thinking. It’s up to us to create new opportunities for our collective future.”
She asks some hard questions about creating those opportunities:
“How can I/we create meaningful work that encourages creativity and innovation? How can a community of practice where practitioners feel supported and encouraged in creating their own meaningful work be strengthened? How can we align our values and our work in the transition to a green economy?”
She’s taking a two-pronged approach to finding answers: A hands on experiential workshop called the Meaningful Work Retreat, and academic research into the lives of ecopreneurs, people who throw themselves “heart and mind”, Malcolm Gladwell-fashion, into work they find purposeful. The body of evidence is growing.
In the bulkily titled “Antecedents and Outcomes of Experienced Meaningful Work: A Person-Job Fit Perspective ” (PDF) researcher Wesley A. Scroggins cites a 2003 study that observed, “…meaningful work experiences are not only valuable to employees, but that experienced meaningful work by employees can also provide value to the organization. The study concluded that meaningful work experiences formed the foundation for employee engagement in organizations.
“…Furthermore, engagement was strongly correlated with both employee retention and the willingness to engage in discretionary pro-social behaviors. As organizations struggle to reduce costs and increase effectiveness, issues of retention management and citizenship behaviors have both received increased attention from management as potential sources of value to organizations.”
In other words, making work meaningful is in corporate best interests, too. As Chris Anderson says, our “coming crowd” needs lives rich with meaning, culture and community. Here’s hoping that this year’s crop of young grads become the ecopreneurs who can make it all happen.